This is an update of a draft of my methodology section. I finally got back to writing it as I took some time off from it and my literature review. This is very much a draft intended for me to explore concepts of what types of online research exist as it pertains to social media. After the major methods are spelled out, the intend is to go further into population studies, the why and how of them. This should be followed up with the methodology for what I’m actually doing. That last part will ultimately be the shortest as population studies aren’t that hard to do. The major methodology parts will actually be spelled out in the individual sections and will follow a format similar to ones that I’ve done for other posts here.
When conducting social media research, there are ten general methods that can be used to gather and analyze data. These are:
1. Individual case studies for how a business uses social media and the web,
2. Search and traffic analytics analysis,
3. Sentiment analysis and reputation management,
4. Content analysis,
5. Usability studies,
6. Interaction and collaboration analysis,
7. Relationship analysis to try to determine how people interact and to identify key influencers, and
8. Population studies
9. Online target analysis of behavior and psychographics,
10. Predictive analysis.
Each of these methods offers insights into various aspects of the web and its population. The type of analysis used is often specific to the purpose of the research, involved blended approaches from traditional analysis types, and different methods are often used in conjunction with each other. These methods often blend quantitative and qualitative analysis. Choosing the correct method of gathering analyzing data can be one of the biggest hurdles for being able to measure ROI and understand how a community works.
This section will provide a brief summary of each type, explain how to conduct this type of research and give examples that used that methodology.
Online target analysis of behavior and psychographics
Online targeting of and marketing towards a specific audience because of their demographic characteristics is extremely common on the Internet. Psychographics is a term that includes targeting towards a specific demographic group except it includes the offline component.
Sutherland and Canwell (2004) define psychographics as “market research and market segmentation technique used to measure lifestyles and to develop lifestyle classifications.” (p. 247) Nicolas (2009) defines online behaviorial analysis as a series of steps: Collecting user data across several sites, organizing information about users based on the sites they visit and their behavior on those sites, “infer demographics and interest data”, and classifying new users based on the collected data in order to deliver relevant ads and content based their demographic profiles. Kinney, McDaniel, and DeGaris (2008) define psychographics as attitude towards something such as a brand or involvement with an organization.
Given the methodology involved, much of this type of research involves action research in that it is done in a specific content, based on internal models to address specific situations.
An example of this type of research was done by Kinney, McDaniel, and DeGaris (2008) who investigated the demographic characteristics of NASCAR fans and their attitudes towards NASCAR, its sponsors and sponsor involvement with NASCAR. The research found that age, gender and education were all important variables in determining sponsor recall: Younger, more educated males had the best brand recall amongst NASCAR fans.
This type of research can be viewed as a subcomponent of a population study in that demographic information is sought about the population. In an online context, it often works in conjunction with search and traffic analytics analysis, content analysis, and interaction and collaboration analysis.
A search on 13 July 2010 on SPORTDiscus had three results for “predictive analysis.” A search on the same date on Scopus had 605 results, 275 of which were in engineering, 132 in computer science and 102 in medicine. Predictive analysis is probably one of the least used analysis methods, especially in social media and fandom.
What is predictive analysis? At its simplest, it is identifying a future event or events, monitoring selection actions that precede the event and seeing if those events can be used to predict the outcome of similar events in the future. If a predictive value is found, an organization can monitor behaviors to help make more informed decisions.
An example of this type of research is “Predicting the Future With Social Media” by Asur and Huberman (2010). Their goal was to determine if tweet volume and sentiment on Twitter prior to a movie being released could be used to predict how well a movie performs at the box office. Their methodology involved identifying movie wider release dates that took place on a Friday, creating a list of keyword searches related to those movies, and using the Twitter API to collect all tweets and aggregate date that mention those keywords over a three month time period. The authors then compared the tweet volume to box office performance. They concluded that social media “can be used to build a powerful model for predicting movie box-office revenue.” (Asur & Huberman, 2010)
This type of research can be used in conjunction with other methods. It can be used along side a population study to see if certain actions will result in demographic changes.
Asur, S., & Huberman, B. A. (2010). Predicting the Future With Social Media. Social Computing Lab. Retrieved from http://www.hpl.hp.com/research/scl/papers/socialmedia/socialmedia.pdf
Kinney, L., McDaniel, S., & DeGaris, L. (2008). Demographic and psychographic variables predicting NASCAR sponsor brand recall. International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship, 9(3), 169-179. Retrieved from SPORTDiscus with Full Text database.
Nicolas, P. (2009, December 17). “Online audience behavior analysis and targeting.” Patrick Nicolas Official Home Page. Retrieved August 1, 2010, from http://www.pnexpert.com/Analytics.html
Sutherland, J., & Canwell, D. (204). Key Concepts in Marketing. Palgrave Key Concepts. Hampshire, England: Palgrave MacMillan.